What is common to the whole album though is the frequency of good riffs, the outstanding musicianship, and the sheer musical ambition of this young band.
Nautha are a relatively new three-piece Italian band, formed in 2016. This is their sophomore release, following on from 2018’s Tutti I Colori Del Buoi (which translates to English as All The Colours Of The Dark). The band’s marketing blurb described the debut as being inspired by the Italian progressive rock season of the 70s, mixing doom, metal, psychedelic and art rock influences – which, I guess means almost every type of rock music! This time around, the seven songs are described as different ‘transmigrations of the soul’ and interpretations of sound, which each time abandons the formal structures of progressive to move towards the experimental sounds of jazz-rock and the galactic voyages of psychedelic kraut’. Wow! I couldn’t spot any jazz in the music myself, but I did sense a strong post-rock feel to the music which might explain the claim of abandoning formal structures.
The album opens with the very impressive nine-minute Heracleion. A short nebulous start is brushed away by a powerful sequence of four guitar chords that is repeated at key moments in the song, sometimes embellished by guitar licks (that strangely reminded me of Neil Young). The band create a compelling wall of sound and it’s hard to believe that there are only three of them (Antonio Montellanico on vocals, bass and guitar, Pierpaolo Cianca also on guitar, and drummer Giorgio Pinnen). A couple of short quieter sections cleverly avoid this wall of sound being overwhelming and some good guitar work keeps it interesting and moving forward. The decision by Montellanico to switch to English for this album is I think a bit questionable. I can understand the desire for the stories to be understood by as many of the listeners as possible but his good and varied singing in his native Italian on the debut album seems to be replaced here by a more monotonous style of singing, as if by concentrating on the diction he’s forgotten to get into the emotions behind the words.
The second and third tracks follow a similar format to Heracleion, albeit a tad shorter in length. Laguna has a brilliant Iommi-like metal riff and is a match for Heracleion, while Kteis is a solid number but lacks a compelling riff. At this point, after hearing three songs in a similar heavy post-rock style, you sense that interest is likely to wane if the band continue along the same path, but luckily, they don’t do so and prove to be anything but a one-trick pony. That choice to start with three similar songs may seem strange but it could be linked to the concept of the album since I noted that the vinyl cover indicates that the album is divided into two parts, with the three tracks on side one forming part one, ‘The Sail’, and the four on side two forming ‘The Descent’.
The Descent side of the vinyl begins and ends with two long songs again of around eight minutes in length. Kata Kumbas is a laid-back piece with Pinnen’s percussion and Montellanico’s bass creating a dreamy stoner-like atmosphere over which Cianca adds some gorgeous guitar touches. It’s a well-constructed piece and shows that the band can be creative and interesting without bursting our eardrums. The title track is a gentle and reflective ninety-six second piano piece; it’s probably just long enough for you to be able to Google Metempsychosis to see what it means while you are listening! Cerbero, the single from the album, shows another side to the group. It’s concise and driven by a faster doom-ish riff. The closing piece, Samat, is the most overtly psychedelic track and is dominated by good guitar work from Cianca. It’s almost a companion piece to Kata Kumbas, albeit a bit more energetic.
The two parts of the album are quite different and might even appeal to different audiences, with post-rock fans appreciating the first part and progressive or stoner fans enjoying the second part. What is common to the whole album though is the frequency of good riffs, the outstanding musicianship, and the sheer musical ambition of this young band. It’s even more remarkable that they have come out of Rome, a city which is something of a musical wilderness that has little interest in this form of music. Perhaps this explains Montellanico’s desire to sing in English since North-European and American audiences are likely to lap up this music.